Trinity 36pts Shannon 11pts – 5th December 2015.
Trinity hosted the legendary Shannon, Ireland’s most successful AIL club, at a windswept College Park. Both teams came into the game on unbeaten streaks. Shannon had won the past four games with some convincing results. Trinity themselves had gained some impressive momentum with a six game winning streak of their own. Something had to give!
The students played into a gusting strong wind and amazingly played some focused high tempo, high skill multi phase rugby into the elements. Incredibly they scored two tries in the opening 9 minutes to take a 14-0 lead against a well-drilled Munster outfit. The first try was scored when centre Paddy Lavelle broke from deep in his own half. After his 60 metre break he linked with fast supporting Conor Kearns, who carried on the play before switching with Lavelle who had stayed in support of the sweeping movement, Shannon conceded a penalty under the pressure. From the ensuing Line out Trinity attacked with prop Eric O’Sullivan and centre Seb Fromm carrying strongly before flanker Brian Du Toit dived in from close range.
Shannon came back off the kick off, and attacked deep into the Trinity half, but they lost control of the ball in the gusting wind only for left wing Max McFarland to scoop up the ball and run 70 metres unimpeded to the Shannon posts.
The relentless play continued for the students. Tim Maupin ran the ball back from a long Shannon kick out. The ball was recycled and moved wide to *8 Tom Ryan who broke free and linked with Eric O’Sullivan who did brilliantly to take the ball to the line before out half Jack McDermott picked and dived over from close range. It was an amazing 19-0 to the students into the difficult conditions.
Shannon, to their credit, showed great character and from a line out close in mauled the students over the line. This was followed by two penalties after some heavy pressure. The visitors camped out on the home teams line and what can only be called heroic defending by the marauding student defence kept them out as the white shirted defenders put their bodies on the line. 19-11 at half time, a good outcome for the under pressure Trinity team.
With the wind in the second half Trinity found it easier to get field position. Shannon are a very proud team, and kept taking the game to the hosts. Jack McDermott kicked a long-range 40m penalty to put the students 22-11 up early in the second half. The teams traded attacks throughout the second half but the Trinity backs on the day looked razor sharp, and McDermott put full back Conor Kearns through a gap. Kearns used his speed and swerve to split the visitors defence before putting Max McFarland away for a spectacular try. This gave the home team a bonus point for four tries, an outcome they could have only dreamt of before the game, when they looked out at the conditions.
Shannon showed what a good team they are and just kept coming with waves of runners as they dominated possession. The Trinity defence stood up well to the onslaught as they were stretched the full width of the field. As the game moved into the dying minutes, Trinity faced one last Shannon attack, but Brian Du Toit turned the ball over and broke free in front of his own posts. He fed replacement centre Michael Courtney who in turn passed to the man of the moment Max McFarland who yet again in open space is simply unstoppable as he sped away from the cover defence to complete his hat trick and finish the game in style.
The teams now go into a four-week break for the Christmas Holidays. On January 2nd Trinity will not have much time to digest their turkey as they travel to Limerick to face the very same opponent Shannon. This will be a huge challenge to overcome what is a very good Limerick team back to back.
Trinity Team; 15 Conor Kearns (Brian Slater 68), 14 Tim Maupin, 13 Paddy Lavelle (Michael Courtney 55), 12 Seb Fromm, 11 Max McFarland, 10 Jack McDermott, 9 Angus Lloyd, 1 Eric O’Sullivan, 2 Patrick Finlay (Matt McCann 65), 3 Andy Keating (Fintan Murphy 65), 4 Jack Burke, 5 Raef Tyrell, 6 Nick McCarthy (Conor Gleeson 65), 7 Brian Du Toit, 8 Tom Ryan.
Photo courtesy of Denis Hooper